Way back in the 90’s my oldest brother was an officer in the US Navy. I was a young college student. One of my spring breaks I was able to manage a trip to Jacksonville, Florida where he was stationed. The goal was to get to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Disney World. I also got a once in a lifetime experience. I toured the ship he was assigned to and got to eat dinner in the officers quarters. I felt like I had arrived. The atmosphere of the officers dining room was quite the experience: Formal wait staff, golden utensils, fancy dining room furniture, etc. It definitely impressed this small town, middle class, midwestern girl. It felt pretty good to have connections with a Naval Officer.
I have been thinking about that trip this afternoon as I have contemplated Luke 14. The setting of this passage is a dinner that Jesus attended at an prominent Pharisee’s(Jewish religious leader) house. I imagine there were several in attendance that felt pretty lucky to have scored a seat at the table with a “miracle man prophet” and a man of high position in the Prominent Religious Party of the day. It was enough to stir thoughts in one of the guests who had to comment to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God”. He probably got the picture of how neat it was to be there at that meal, and how in comparison sitting in the very presence of God at His Kingly table would be.
Jesus took that opportunity to teach a little lesson. In typical Jesus’s style, He told them a parable.
In His parable a man was preparing a great banquet. He was arranging the venue, planning the menu, and getting a list of his guest. He had put a lot into it and when he expected his guests to reply with the anticipated RSVP’s, he got turned down. Replies like, “I’m too busy. Just got married…”. “Just bought a set of five yoke of oxen for me to try out.” (Today’s equivalent of a new John Deere Tractor with all the accessories.). Or “I’ve just bought a field. Gotta settle down and enjoy it.” It was enough to shock the generous host with such snubs.
What happens next surpasses the out of place dining of a small town, midwestern, college girl’s dining in the Officers Quarters of a US Naval ship. The host told his servants to go out and compel the poor, the blind, the crippled, and the lame to come to the meal. When the banquet hall wasn’t full he told them to go to the country roads and lanes to find more guests for his banquet. The honored guests for the distinguished host would be the very people who during the time of Jesus were the lowest of the social echelon.
So why all the fuss over banquets, dining and rsvp’s in Jesus’s parable? This is a reflection of who it is that Jesus calls to be a part of His Kingdom feast now, the very ones He invites to become His disciples. There are those He invites that let their relationships, their possessions, their season in life to keep them from valuing the opportunity of a life time, sitting at a table as a guest of Jesus’s meal. There are those who never would expect to be invited because of who they are and what they have become. He compels the poor with nothing to offer, those crippled by their anxieties, pain, and past. He compels the blind who strain to see past the darkness that envelopes them, and the lame who are unable to stand on their own. Those far away in the places that would never expect an invite. Those are the ones He invites to come. Simply because He wants His house to be full.
I’ve heard many people talk about how they are not worthy of following God and sitting down with Him at the feast of the Kingdom. No One Is! This is the beauty of the invitation. Just as I sat in the US Navy’s Officer’s Dining hall having never worn a uniform or fulfilled any qualifications of an officer. Simply because my Big Brother was qualified to be there, we are invited to sit at the most important event of eternity God the Father’s banquet because our Big Brother, Jesus is qualified to be there and He has compelled us to come and dine. Ours is simply to respond to the RSVP.